Saturday, January 28, 2017

Joy

Year 9, Day 28 - 1/28/17 - Movie #2,528

BEFORE: My first post written on the new computer, with an updated browser - can you tell?  No, probably not.  I've been working with the new iMac for over a week, but most of that time has been spent transferring files over via an external drive, finding out if my old versions of Word and Excel would work (nope...) and finding a viable alternative that doesn't involve giving any money to the Microsoft Corp.  Then I had to re-program all of my iTunes playlists, and convince my phone to sync up with the new computer instead of the one at the office. The first synching went horribly wrong, I tried to do it all at once and songs were skipped, album artwork didn't transfer over, some songs ended up being duplicated - it was a mess.  I don't know why I can't just make a playlist, tell the computer to transfer that playlist to the phone, and that doesn't just WORK.  Instead, it seems to be buggy as all hell.  But removing all the playlists, then transferring them over one at a time, and syncing the phone after each one seemed to work better, though it was much more time-consuming. I know, white person problems, right?  But at least I'm back to where I can download music to replace my old audio-cassettes, and have a way again to get that music on to my phone, so I can listen to it on long subway rides, not have to listen to strangers' conversations, and then I won't get the urge to punch them in the face, so really, this is for the good of everyone.

Robert De Niro carries over from "The Intern", for another film about a woman succeeding in the workplace.


THE PLOT: The story of Joy Mangano, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.     

AFTER: First off, it's a little weird that they never say Joy's last name within the film, and I had to look it up online.  It's an odd detail to leave out - was it considered too ethnic?  Did some screenwriter feel that people wouldn't empathize with the lead character if I knew her last name, or that by leaving it out, I'd imagine her last name could be mine, or something?  Secondly, if you told me when I started this movie-watching project that I'd eventually watch the story of a woman who became famous for inventing a mop, I would have said you were crazy.  But that's where I find myself.  

Of course, we're talking about the Miracle Mop, a staple of the early days of Home Shopping Network and the infomercial circuit.  It's very tempting, being the cynical person that I am, to not believe that any product on TV is as good as it says it is.  I've seen too many empty promises, bought too many things that DON'T work for me to buy something on the advice of the exact same people who are also going to profit from that sale.  I'm probably the guy who confounds the marketing people, because I've peeked behind the curtain and worked in an advertising-adjacent line of work, plus I don't own a car, I only buy a new computer or phone when the old one crashes, and I tend to not own more than one pair of sneaker or two pairs of pants at one time.  I'm a simple man, and (generally speaking) money belongs in the bank, and I'm not eager to throw it away on a whim.  

But occasionally there is an item that does what its advertising says that it will.  In 2015, my mother asked for a MyPillow for Christmas, and from what I can tell, it's working well for her.  And after watching that infomercial for that square copper frying pan (you know the one, I bet) my wife and I took a chance on it at Christmas last month while shopping at the "As Seen on TV" outlet store, and so far so good, it really seems to be as non-stick and as easy-to-clean as Chef Eric said it would.  So since my umbrella gave up the ghost in a windstorm last week, hey, I may even give the Better Brella a try.  

This film takes place back in 1990, when "home shopping" was in its infancy, after convincing people that the term was not an oxymoron, before there were even web-sites to shop from.  Before that, it seems people would only shop at these things called "stores", where they could pick up and inspect the merchandise before buying, and walk out of the store with it THAT SAME DAY (I know, right?) and carry it home.  All shipping was "free shipping", because there was no shipping.  But I guess even back then there was the Sears catalog, and I don't know how that thing stayed in business for so long.  Why drive to a store and get your item right away when you can call a phone number and get it next week?  

But all this meant that there were only a few companies that controlled what products got on store shelves and which ones didn't, so even if you built a better mousetrap, there was no way to get people to find out about it, so that old saying about people beating a path to your door just wasn't the case.  Then along came TV and the internet, which I have to think leveled the playing field - but along with greater channels for promotion no doubt came new ways to rip people off.  For every invention that Ron Popeil came up with that delivered on its promise (ginsu knives, and let's assume that rotisserie oven) there were probably three that didn't (the Pocket Fisherman, that record-cleaning device) or broke after a few uses.  

Look, I don't know if the Miracle Mop was all that it was cracked up to be.  But I applaud the ingenuity of the person who designed it.  That said, I don't know if her story warrants making a movie about her, or depicting her terribly quirky family in such an obtuse way.  I don't even know if this portrayal of this American family is spot on, or if it was exaggerated in such a way to emphasize the hero-ness of Joy, being a working mother supporting family members who didn't seem able or willing to get jobs and pitch in.  I mean, sure, follow your dream, even if your dream is to sing in nightclubs or watch soap operas in bed, but you've got to have some balance in your life.  Maybe once you have a job and some income you can devote a few hours a day to your daytime dramas or whatever, but if that's all that you do, someone needs to call a family meeting. 

So I'd really prefer to call a mulligan here, because I can't say that this story didn't ring true, or took too many liberties, I just have to fall back on whether it entertained me or not - and I'm kind of neutral on this point because so many characters were so gratingly annoying, and I'm not sure that I buy this whole women's empowerment thing when it's just the same kind of success story that we see on "Shark Tank" every week.  I mean, let's keep some perspective here, this woman didn't cure a disease or become the first woman in space, or even champion civil rights, she just invented a better mop.  And I don't think she did it for the benefit of the world, as this story might lead you to believe. 
OK, so maybe the world's a little cleaner, but that's about it.

NITPICK POINT: Why does it seem like the only way a movie can show a woman getting "tough" is to show her cutting her hair?  I don't get the supposed "empowerment" that a scene like this is supposed to symbolize.  A woman can be tough or determined and have long hair - what's the alleged connection between the short hair and her demeanor?  I just see it as a cheap way for a movie to show what can't be shown, it's a shorthand cheat. 

NITPICK POINT: I don't know why anyone would wring a mop out with their bare hands - a mop head is obviously going to be dirty and something one wouldn't want to touch.  I believe that prior to 1990, a professional janitor would probably use a bucket with a wringer attached, and people at home had the option to use those sponge mops that either had a metal plate that you could squeeze the sponge with, or that handle that would compress the sponge together.  So I don't see how the Miracle Mop solved something that wasn't much of a problem to begin with. 

Also starring Jennifer Lawrence (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Bradley Cooper (last seen in "Aloha"), Edgar Ramirez (last seen in "The Counsellor"), Virginia Madsen (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Diane Ladd (last seen in "Wild at Heart"), Isabella Rossellini (last seen in "Wyatt Earp"), Elisabeth Rohm (last seen in "American Hustle"), Dascha Polanco, Jimmy Jean-Louis, with cameos from Ken Howard (last seen in "The Judge"), Susan Lucci, Donna Mills, Melissa Rivers.

RATING: 5 out of 10 royalty checks

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